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Our dream of cruising on a boat Around the Great Circle Loop and beyond has the drawback of leaving our friends and family far away from us for an extended time. This blog is intended to keep you up to date on our travels and adventures, and encourage you to join us for some part of our trip as we make our way around the waterways of the eastern US, Canada, the Bahamas and the Caribbean. Click on the archived posts below to follow our journey. Our dog, Ben, has been helping us write this blog since he has more time!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Christmas and MORE in Fort Lauderdale

Hi All...Ben here, in my New Year's Eve outfit. 
Happy New Year!
Nice to be in Fort Lauderdale again in the warm sun! 
We arrived here in the middle of December and dropped a hook in the Middle River for the night just as the sun was setting. 
Izzy flipped on the Christmas lights and I had a romantic dinner on the sundeck with Jeff and Izzy, looking at the city lights and relaxing. 
The next morning at slack tide, we headed up the New River to the slip we had rented for the holidays.  This is always an exciting two mile trip and I usually try to hide so I won't be blamed for any of Jeff's "miscalculations" in the driving department!   I could see Izzy getting the camera ready...

The river goes right through downtown Fort Lauderdale, and is narrow and twisting and busy, with a swift current...full of boats of all sizes tied up to the walls of the river, or cruising as if it were Van Nyes Boulevard. Prime fodder for another "Izzy R" boondoggle story if Jeff isn't on his toes.
According to him, to negotiate all this without what he calls "the pucker factor" is a sign of a seasoned skipper.  He usually has to pee just before we start on a journey like this.  Just sayin'...
I'm not sure what that means, but he was very happy when he spotted the Jungle Queen heading into the river opening in front of us leading the way.  
The bridges always open for her without waiting, and most other boats take a wide pass around her when she swings around the corner. Traveling behind her is like a free pass!
  Add to the mix the mega yachts that are being guided from both the bow and stern by tow boats on the river at all times of the day.  The Jungle Queen is Jeff's new friend!
We made it safely to our slip behind the Coral Castle and settled in for what we thought was a three week stay. 
This is the castle in the yard where we're parked.  It's made of blocks of coral inside and out - even the floors and the patio.  
And there are two lions on high pillars guarding the place. 
They didn't scare me...I peed on one right away, just to set the ground rules and show them who's boss.  They never bothered me after that!

We celebrated on the Izzy R with our travel buddies, Hank and Ann of Queen Ann's Revenge, and cousins Brian and BJ who were staying at their condo a couple miles away.   
Of course there's nothing like Jeff's favorite dinghy ride in the canals with BJ and Brian to the Southport Raw Bar - he likes going under the low bridges at high tide so we have to get down real low to keep from hitting our heads.
The ride back in the dark was more challenging!

Our friend Carol lives nearby, too.  We met her on a boat in the Erie Canal last summer, and she invited us to meet some of her sailing friends here in Fort Lauderdale.  There's Nancy with her...she's real nice too.  She loaned us her car while we were here, so I got to go for a ride a few times, to the Vet and the groomer - and got to pick out my own treats at the pet store...I LOVE car rides!
Aaron and Matt flew in from Oregon to join us for Christmas.  It took them a few days to get used to the warm weather and the sunshine, and finally take off their long socks and put on their flip flops!
They discovered Himmershee Street with its late night bar and music scene just across the bridge from us, so they were able to keep up with their pool playing skills, as well as avoid jet lag by sticking with their west coast time zone! Pretty smart guys! Guess they learned that in college.

We were entertained at Brian's condo one night by the parade of cruise ships leaving the harbor, blowing their deep horns, while we waved at the passengers standing along the decks. 
Christmas morning was warm and sunny.  Ah, yessss...warm and sunny....the best gift that these two Eugene, Oregon guys could wish for! 
Now that I look closely, it seems that Matt has had his eyes closed in the last couple of pictures...not sure if that's for lack of sleep, or the effect of the bright yellow thing in the sky that he hasn't gotten used to since he's been living in Oregon. 
I guess to make them feel closer to home, they each got new Canadian boxers. 
Nothing says Christmas like sunglasses and Canadian skivvies in Florida!
One of Izzy's friends from high school, David, heard that we were in the area at the same time that he was vacationing nearby, so he came to see us one day.  Nice surprise! They caught up on some of the last 40 years over lunch (I think that's 280 dog years).

There was a big New Year's Eve party on the lawn of the Coral Castle behind our boat with lots of lights and music. 
The band was called The Unusual Suspects...and they were as old as Jeff and Izzy (you know what I mean!), so they played lots of OLD songs that everyone in this crowd seemed to know.  Not the same music that Matt and Aaron were listening to while they were here. 
Some of our friends came over to the Izzy R and we all joined the festivities.  
This is Diane.  She's a feisty one, and she likes me!
Here's Jeff having fun with the ladies...Diane, Kathy and Pollie, while everyone was pretty sober.

Then there is this picture a little later!

Here are Pollie and Mo cuttin' a rug to the oldies played by the band.  I think everyone else was singing along.

At midnight everyone blew their horns and hoisted yet another glass of champagne to the new year.  Here are Linda and Brian, Diane and Steve, Jeff, Pollie and Mo, and Kathy and Mark.  I guess Izzy was taking the picture, and I was under the table nibbling on the shrimp that dropped!
It was all topped off with some pretty rad fireworks from down the street somewhere near the jail. 
(Hmm...I think they were fireworks.)
Lately my old hips have been getting me into trouble.  I often get stuck in this position when trying to go down the stairs into the boat. 

Usually Izzy will come to my rescue and help me get the back legs over the threshold so I don't just flop down the stairs... pretty embarrassing.
But the worst incident was one morning when I slipped on the wet deck, and my old hips weren't quite strong enough to keep me on my feet, so I fell sideways - overboard into the river.  Luckily for me, Jeff was out on the deck too, so he jumped in and caught me as I was swimming...in the wrong direction... away from the boat, and being carried down the river with the current.
 Needless to say, it was a bad day...whimpering from the cold and smelly water, the exhausting swim, and to top it all off, Izzy insisted on a bath before going inside to bed. Poor Jeff...
 I had the same complaints, by the way.

So the next day Jeff got busy on a new boat project...

Yup...puttin' up netting around the boat - so he won't slip and fall overboard like I did.  Funny, I thought he would like the swim. 
Well, I've gotten used to looking through the little holes at the big mega yachts passing by, so if it keeps Jeff safe, then I can deal with it I guess.
I think Izzy likes it too, because she only wants to go swimming from the swim step in the back, in Bahamian waters, outside a harbor, with no sharks, or jellyfish, in warm water, ....well, you get the picture.
We got a nice surprise in the mail the other day...our official Royal Marsh Harbor Yacht Club burgee.  Just in time for our trip to the Bahamas!
We started up the engines early one morning and headed for Bimini.  About 15 miles out in the Atlantic Ocean, as Jeff was throwing out the fishing lure to catch us some dinner, he noticed one engine acting funny.  Here he is changing fuel filters in the 100 degree  engine room to try to fix the problem. 
No luck.  We turned around and came back to Fort Lauderdale.
Back through the inlet by Brian's condo
and past the cruise ships lined up waiting for their departure times.

Back under the bridges - hope they haven't rented our slip to someone else!
So we have more time to visit with friends here!

David and Debby came to visit from Burlington, before their motorcycle meeting in Miami.

They brought some special ingredients for some nice lemonade drinks.  They must have been good, because everyone was real happy!

Brian brought Cindy and Jimmy over with Dillon, baby Tegan and big sister Lexie .

And we spent more time with our good friends John and Fran.

While we were waiting for our engine problems to be fixed Jeff and Izzy bought more stuff!  The AIS (Automatic Identifying System) was a purchase we had hoped to find that would integrate into our chart plotter, but our system was too old to accept the add on. (I can relate)  So we found a stand- alone model to mount on the upper helm station.
Captain Steve - our electrical expert buddy, helped Jeff install our new AIS.
Now we can see and identify other boats in our area on that little screen, and they can identify and see  us, too!  Important when we're driving at night, in the fog, or on the rivers where we can't see around the corners.  Also just fun to find our friends in an anchorage in the Bahamas!

Another big purchase was our new life raft for the long journey south.
I hope we never have to use it, cause Izzy will make me wear those silly looking booties she bought for me so I don't pop the raft...remember them?

Jeff and Izzy had more time to ride their bikes around on errands and for fun, but I don't have a bike that fits me, so I usually stay home and guard the boat.   

Sometimes they ride to the beach.
The purple flag on the life guard stand means that there are poisonous Portuguese Man-O-War jelly fish in the water.  Probably not a good time to take a swim, because they have stinging tentacles that can reach 165 feet!  I found this picture on the Internet.  That's close enough for me!
Meanwhile we were trying to figure out what went wrong with the engine...ordering parts and rebuilding pumps and going on sea trials. Jeff and Izzy were getting lots of exercise riding bikes to Home Depot and West Marine every day.
One day a big truck pulled up into the yard with long hoses and "polished" our fuel! Sounds crazy, eh?
Well, this simple pump doesn't look like it would be  expensive to use, but Jeff said it cost us a "boat dollar" to have it at the dock all day. 
Finally we got it all fixed and ready to go. Here's Alex - the engine repair guy - with us on the successful sea trial!
Ready to go as soon as the weatherman says it's going to be a smooth day on the sea. 

While we waited, Linda and her great dog, Mercy came to see us for the afternoon.

We met them in a lock in the Dismal Swamp last summer when Linda's tug boat was the last of 19 boats squeezed in...so tight that she had to turn her boat sideways!! 
Never saw that before...I think it was the lock keepers personal best!
She named her boat Mercy after her dog!  I've been thinking about surprising Jeff and Izzy with a name change to our boat.. Ben R would be nice, don't you think?

They went to lunch at the Briney Pub, but I stayed home to guard the place and nap!
The  "weather window" came, so Jeff and Izzy were busy running around the boat, tying things down, and trying to remember how everything works after two months of lallygagging in Ft. Lauderdale. I try to maintain a low profile during these panic attacks, so I won't get blamed for anything.

Out of the New River the next day - another wild ride with Jeff at the helm trying to act calm among the mega yachts, bridges and swift current, then 30 miles down the ICW to Biscayne Bay where we anchored for the night.  Tomorrow morning we'll get a sunrise start out into the Atlantic for our crossing to Bimini - about a 42 nautical mile trip - should take us about 7 hours.
This will be my third trip to the Bahamas, but I overheard that we're going even further south this year to a lot of exotic sounding islands, ending at place called Granada, where we'll stay during the hurricane season (June to November). 
 I'm going to have to brush up on my Spanish if I want to meet any of those little senorita chihuahuas down there.  I think these ought to do as starters: 

"You have a beautiful tail." -   Usted tiene una hermosa cola.     
"Would you like to come up and see my Poop Deck?"  -  ¿Quieres venir y ver a mi Poop Deck?    
"May I offer you a bone?"  -  ¿Puedo ofrecerle un hueso?  
"What's your sign? Jeff says mine is Feces."  - ¿Cuál es tu signo? Jeff dice que lo mío son las heces. 

 So easy these days with Google, eh?

 Enough work for today.  Time for a beautiful sunset dinner on the back of the boat.  More adventures start tomorrow.

Adios mi Amigos!